9 September 2016.
The genius of creation, the brilliance of a collaboration. The duo of Colin Firth and Jude Law is a power house of mutual appreciation and turmoil in this literary tale of the creative process. Based on real characters in 1930s New York City, Firth plays top editor Max Perkins at Scribner’s, the legendary publishing house, and Law is the wild, prolific Southern writer Thomas Wolfe, whose massive manuscript of “Look Homeward, Angel” Perkins has accepted and is trying to edit.
The film, about the importance of the editor in the writing process, is an illuminating, fascinating tale of the unruly artist and the patient craftsman. You can feel the awe the director (Michael Grandage, multi-award winning artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse Theatre in London) has for literature. His reverence shines through in every grey frame, every tortured scene of weeding out the unnecessary to reveal the honed downed, polished gem.
Perkins had discovered such literary giants as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway before he grappled with the tempestuous Wolfe, and they are also here in this homage to friendship, and the art and passion of writing.
Some critics have not been as taken as I was with this film, calling it over-acted and dull. It’s certainly not a work for the popcorn crowd or those looking for easy entertainment. But I was mesmerized.
FRANTZ ***1/2 (vo German/French)
François Ozon is one of France’s finest directors, and his latest film is always an event to look forward to, almost annually since 1997, like a Woody Allen movie. Ozon’s films have an elegance to them, whatever their subject matter. And a discretion, whatever theme he chooses. Whether it be the retro/expressionist “Ghouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes” of 2000; the mournful “Sous le sable”; the whodunnit musical “8 Femmes”; the divorce drama “5 x 2”; the dark, literary “Dans la maison”, or the deliciously satirical “Potiche”, there is always a delicate, though somewhat perverse twist to his stories, along with occasional dark humor. Each one is very different from the last, yet all are similar in their intelligent, artistic approach.
This one is completely different from his previous works. Filmed mostly in glowing black and white, it is set just after WWI, an old-fashioned, romantic drama. It’s also one of the most understated anti-war films I have ever seen. And, like all exceptional works, it well reflects present-day tensions.
Loosely based on “Broken Lullaby”, the 1931 film of the great Ernst Lubitsch, it tells of a young Frenchman who comes to a German town to mourn the loss of his wartime friend, who happened to be German. His presence upsets the fiancé and family of the dead soldier, as well as the suspicious townspeople.
The acting is superb, the turns and twists of the plot are wonderfully melodramatic, and it is one of those works that leaves you with much to ponder, and remember. In other words, a film not to miss.
Just don’t bother. This regurgitated Biblical action tale set around the crucifixion of Christ has a plodding script, terrible direction, casting and acting (except for Ben-Hur’s wife Esther, played by the delicate Persian actress, Nazanin Boniadi), and no reason for an overhaul. The 1959 one didn’t deserve all the Oscars it won, but at least the main protagonists – Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd – had some grandeur.
Save your money.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.